American Monster Movies

From supernatural beings to extraterrestrials, from devil worshippers to demonic children, from serial killers to killer animals, and from zombies to viral organisms, monsters are recurring figures in American cinema that change their shape throughout film history. This course will explore the different forms that monstrosity has taken in the horror genre, not only in what we now consider traditional monster movies, such as the Gothic classic Dracula (1931), but also in psychological horror and “body horror” films, science-fiction creature features, slasher/splatter films, and self-reflexive horror-comedies. We will consider when and how these monsters emerged onscreen, what they reveal about cultural fears and trends, and why they remain popular with moviegoers as they mutate across sequels, remakes, and imitations. To borrow the “friendly warning” in the famous prologue of Frankenstein (1931), I would be remiss if I did not add the following about this course, given the content: “I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even horrify you. So, if any of you feel you do not care to subject your nerves to such a strain, now’s your chance to…well, we’ve warned you.”